At the Canadian Carey Family Conference last evening, Bill Bygroves, the guest preacher for the week and pastor of Bridge Chapel in Liverpool, UK, said something that caught my attention. He reminded us that the holy Trinity is not the Father, the Son and the Holy Scriptures, but rather, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In his address he did not take time to elaborate but his statement got me thinking that he is on to something important. While I am certain he would not deny the critical role of the Spirit in the creation of the scriptures, I think his point is that we are ultimately dealing with a divine person and not merely a sacred book. As important as the scriptures are in the life of a Christian they are not functioning as they should if the do not lead us to cry out for more of the Holy Spirit, the heavenly comforter, and divine advocate who indwells the people of God as a deposit guaranteeing the inheritance which is to come at the end of the age.
I found his statement arresting because I have been pondering disturbing deadness of too many congregations who pride themselves in their orthodoxy and their love of the scriptures. I fear that too often we have turned preaching into a spectator sport and sometimes in my perversity I wonder if it has not become a form of penitence that is ritualistically endured week after week as a way of cleansing the conscience. Awash in conferences, seminars and meetings that merely speak to the choir and take up time and money that could be better spent on the front lines, we are not evangelizing the world as we should, nor are we addressing people in a way that they can understand. This is not simply an educational problem because never have there been more books and courses and sermons available to those who are so inclined etc. Nor can it be fixed if pastors are encouraged to sound 'street-wise' and 'with-it' in their sermons, which usually comes across with all the impact of a pathetic joke. Something more is needed. More accurately, someone more is needed!
Surely the answer lies in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We need him to breathe life into our efforts. Studied homiletic or elocutionary technique will not cut it in the real world and similar suggested solutions to the present malaise betray a basic failure to understand the hardness of the human heart. We need the Spirit of the living God to fall afresh on us and our ministries. Without his presence and power we will become mired in traditionalism or confuse conservative or liberal values for those of the gospel. What is frequently absent is the unstudied eloquence of those who have experienced the wonder of sovereign grace and therefore cannot help but speak in 2008 terms of the reality of God's presence and grace. Bygroves is right. Christians worship the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.